Michelle Malcho, spokeswoman for GM’s Chevy cars unit, tells Fortune that the first pre-production Chevy Bolt has rolled off the assembly line at the company’s factory in Orion, Michigan. “For us, this shows movement,” Malcho says. “We’re not just talking about it, we’re doing it.” That may be a not so subtle dig at Tesla, which has been chronically late getting cars to market on time in the past.
What is pre-production? It’s a stage that allows engineers and factory workers to make sure parts fit, the manufacturing process works, and the dimensions on the car are right. For instance, workers might make sure the tool that installs the windshield works correctly, Malcho explains. Typically, it takes 6 to 12 months for a car to go from the pre-production phase to full production. Chevrolet plans to start full production of the Bolt before the end of this year.
In the meantime, the pre-production cars, which cannot be sold to the public, will be used for real world testing. Feedback from testers can be incorporated into running changes that will apply to the actual production cars when they get built. For instance, Chevy has worked hard to make driving the Bolt feel as much like driving a conventional car as possible.
The Bolt is intended to appeal to people who are driving Civics and Corollas today. They are not early adopters the way Chevy Volt owners are. Chevy thinks they don’t want any surprises when they slip behind the wheel of a Bolt for that first, all important test drive.
That means the drivetrain has been programmed to make it “creep” at a stop light just the way a gas powered car with an automatic transmission would do. Regenerative braking has also been set on the light side so when a driver takes his or her foot of the gas pedal, the car doesn’t suddenly slow more than expected. The car does have more aggressive regenerative braking available, but only if the driver elects drive the car using the Low setting. Chevrolet could alter those settings if real world testing shows changes are needed.
Chevrolet would love to have the first production Bolts in showrooms before Christmas and is working overtime to make that happen. The Orion, Michigan assembly plant also builds the Buick Verona compact SUV and the Chevy Sonic. Hmmmm…. is there any chance some of the peices of the Bolt might find their was into those cars someday?
Photo credit: Chevrolet